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Age is Between the Ears

My mother was amazing! She didn't let age stand in her way. When my dad passed away due to a long illness, after a period of intense grief, my mother made the comment. "I've decided to make the best of what I have." She had her faith and her family. However, this 5 foot tall whirlwind also needed an outlet for her high-level energy; so, in her late 70s, Mom asked me to create a résumé for her.

I listed her experience at the Boeing Company preceded by many years in the retail field, and mom set off to explore joining the work force once again. She didn't drive, so that meant finding a job within walking distance. She was hired at a nearby tea room/bakery, and loved the job. And the clients loved her—as well as her delicious, homemade cinnamon rolls. One of her regular customers confided that she thought she'd take her pre-school daughter to another restaurant for a change, but the little girl started crying and said, "I want to go to lunch where I can see the grandma lady." When that business closed, she once again circulated her résumé and landed a job at Skipper's.

Fish and fries become her game. Management soon noticed that she worked circles around the younger staff members. Mom even won a regional employee award from the company. She loved working with the teen-age crew, and they found in her a grandmother-figure in whom they could confide. She didn't expect any special considerations or help because of her age—or height. If something needed to be done, she'd see that the task was completed one way or another.

When an object was situated on a high shelf, she didn't wait for another employee to take it down. She found a stool to stand on and climbed up a couple of shelves to retrieve what she needed. More than one manager almost went into cardiac arrest upon viewing that scene. Her calisthenics were also apparent in the supermarket when she used a banana or box of cereal as tools to pull something off of a high shelf, and then would catch it before the object hit the floor. When I asked her, "Mom, why don't you ask a clerk for help?" her response was always, "I don't have time to wait." She had things to do and places to go.

Mom loved adventure! She often worked the evening shift at Skipper's, so when she called me on one occasion and said I wouldn't need to pick her up because another employee was taking her home, that seemed fine to me—until she "confessed" the next day that her ride was on the back of a motorcycle. She thought that was pure fun. Gray curls anchored by her navy blue Skipper's hat, and her uniform sweater whipped by the wind, she was quite the sight. Her only complaint was the driver didn't go fast enough. On her 80th birthday, the reader board outside of Skipper's said, "Help Us Celebrate Gladys' 80th Birthday." Friends and customers came for cake and conversation with the birthday girl.

She loved it! It almost eclipsed the large family party held later that day. Mom didn't think like an "old person." She kept up with what was happening in our world through the newspaper, magazines, TV, and discussions with family and friends. When people heard she was in her 80s, it was hard for them to believe. Our mom didn't think she was old, so acted accordingly. Have you ever met an individual in his or her 40s who seemed really old? That's often the case when someone has a glum outlook on life and focuses entirely on himself or herself.

Learning has stopped and the word "goal" is no longer a part of that person's vocabulary. We all realize the importance of physical exercise for optimum health, but scientists now recognize that as people grow older they need to "exercise" their brains regularly to help that organ function longer and better. There's a big, wonderful world out there—in fact, 194 countries—just waiting to be explored. Through travel, books, movies, magazines, educational courses, and the Internet, one's mind can expand while the world grows smaller. And learning is a way to keep young. We're all growing older every day that we live—no one is exempt—but our quality of life is affected by our attitude, health, goals, and the desire to keep learning.

The Japanese have a proverb that says, "We begin aging when we stop learning." So Mom was right—age is between the ears.

Jeff Gustafson and MyHATT, An international dinner club concept where people get to know people one bite at a time...thank you to Arlene Hawkinson and my entire MyHATT contributing staff for the educational content for world culture, the history, world traditions, the international menus for the MyHATT family activity... http://www.myhatt.com

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